Taliban suicide bomber assassinates head of Afghan High Peace Council


Burhanuddin Rabbani salutes Northern Alliance troops at a camp in 2001. Photo source: Reuters.

The Taliban have claimed credit for today’s suicide attack in Kabul that killed Burhanuddin Rabbani, the chief of the Afghan High Peace Council and former president of Afghanistan. The suicide bomber killed Rabbani in his home and seriously wounded Masoom Stanekzai, the peace council’s secretary, after detonating an explosive device that was hidden in his turban.

“A Taliban member who went to Rabbani’s house for peace talks detonated a bomb hidden in his turban,” a statement released by the Kabul police chief’s office said, according to Reuters. The suicide bomber had not been searched by security forces prior to entering Rabbani’s home, as a sign of trust.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid identified the suicide bomber as Mohammad Masoom, and said he entered Rabbani’s home under the guise of peace talks.

“As soon as Rabbani came three steps forward to hug Mohammad Masoom, he triggered his explosive-filled jacket killing Rabbani, (another) Taliban militant Wahid Yar and four security guards present at the house,” he told Reuters.

Masoom was introduced to Rabbani by Rahmatullah Wahidyar, the Taliban’s former Deputy Minister of Refugees Affairs. Wahidyar, who is from Paktia province, reconciled with the Afghan government in the winter of 2005. The New York Times described Wahidyar as “a trusted emissary” of Rabbani. His whereabouts are currently unknown.

Kabul police and the National Directorate of Security are said to have a second suicide bomber and the Taliban’s driver in custody.

As the head of the Afghan High Peace Council, Rabbani was tasked with conducting reconciliation talks with the Taliban. While Rabbani had in the past been optimistic about the prospects for reconciliation, he is said to have soured on the process and believed the Taliban had no interest in reconciliation, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

NATO and the US are banking on reconciliation with large elements of the Taliban as well as the development of the Afghan National Security Forces as major elements of the strategy to dramatically reduce their military presence by 2014.

The assassination of Rabbani is the latest in a string of attacks that have targeted high-profile Afghan leaders. Since the beginning of spring, the Taliban have killed Ghulam Haidar Hamidi, the mayor of Kandahar; Ahmed Wali Karzai, President Karzai’s brother and an influential power broker in Kandahar; General Daud, the top police commander in the north; General Abdul Rahman Sayedkhili, the provincial chief of police for Kunduz; Jan Mohammad Khan, the former governor of Uruzgan province who had become one of Karzai’s top advisers; and Mohammad Hashim Watanwal, a parliamentarian from Uruzgan. Khan and Watanwal were killed in a suicide attack at Khan’s home in Kabul.

Rabbani’s murder also takes place just one week after a team of Taliban fighters launched an assault on the US Embassy, NATO headquarters, and several police stations in Kabul. The attack lasted for more than 20 hours.

Today’s attack is the fourth carried out by the Taliban using a bomb hidden in a turban. This is a tactic that was not used by the Taliban until this summer. On July 14, a Taliban suicide bomber detonated his headdress during a funeral ceremony for the slain half-brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, killing four people, including the ulema council leader, Maulvi Hikmatullah Hikmat, and another senior religious cleric. On July 27, a turban suicide bomber killed the mayor of Kandahar City, Ghulam Haidar Hamidi, after he exited a meeting and was speaking on his cellphone in a courtyard. And on Aug. 19, a Taliban suicide bomber with an explosive device hidden within his headdress detonated at an Afghan government center during a ceremony marking Afghanistan’s Independence Day held at the Helmand Military Corps Center. Three Afghan National Policemen were wounded in the attack.

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  • don owen says:

    I think we can now convince the Afgans this is a fight to the death- no peace will ever be made with these people. Total elimination of the Taliban is the end game- and anyone who supports them. They must be hunted and killed- no prisoners, no absurd rehabilitation programs. We’ve captured some of the same guys a half dozen or more times. Drones are the gift from Allah that will take the Taliban leaders out gefore they can take attempt to take others out. The Taliban must convince you to let them get close enough to blow you up. Afgans will hopefully realize they can never be trusted. The drones will never end for the Taliban- however their contact with reasonable people will hopefully end. Hopefully, no more Afgans will be killed trying to help bring peace.

  • gudien says:

    We go for their leaders, they go for ours.

  • Paul D says:

    Who dosent want peace between Taliban and Nato?
    Pak Army/ISI come to mind!

  • peter says:

    METAL DETECTORS. Why don’t they use them? They are cheap, the turban bomb is now a known tactic…would you rather offend a guest or die?

  • Jim says:

    The most deadly and devastating attacks have been facilitated by lack of iron clad security. The CIA attack and this one are two examples. These people cannot be trusted. Period.

  • Jim says:

    Take this fight to Pakistan in a big way. Now.

  • plainslow says:

    They kill thier own? Should I care?

  • blert says:

    The ISI regards this campaign as pure tit for tat.
    The FBI should send over some Profilers — so that Afghan politicians can develop some appreciation of who is just to risky to chit chat with.

  • Jack Sargento says:

    This article reports the use of a jacket bomb and a turban bomb. Which is it?

  • Mr. Nobody says:

    @ peter you would think that they would take precautions. I believe it is just a matter of their cultural upbringing and their belief that what will happen will happen. I witnessed the same sort of lax security in Iraq. I believe the phrase is ‘inshallah.’ It’s hard for us westerners to wrap our head around it, no pun intended.

  • onlooker says:

    What is it gonna take before US tells Pakistan Army and ISI its enough? They are actively supporting the Haqqani network which has been killing US, Afghan and NATO personnel for years now. They are actively propogating anti-US propaganda among their people despite getting billions in aid. They are hell-bent in bleeding US, their lackies have attacked the US embassy. This inaction by the US will ultimately result in it’s defeat. I believe no peace agreements will work with Taliban until they have been weakened militarily, these people take peace proposals as a sign of weakness and are savages in short.

  • Neo says:

    Maybe they just got things crossed up and got this years “pieces initiative” mixed up with the “peace initiative”. Call me cynical, but I wasn

  • Bubba Gump says:

    Another case of life imitating art. Who here remembers the cartoon of Mo with a turban bomb. Of corse it was not a turban bomb that killed Rabbani it was a an explosive vest according to the official Taliban spooksman.

  • Vyom says:

    it’s about time another powerful and charismatic leader like Ahmed Shah Massoud(Lion of Panjshir) rise from land of afghanistan….

  • Max says:

    Don’t these people ever learn from the past? Give me a break

  • Max says:

    Reminds me of the old Star Trek quote: “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me!”

  • dr burke says:

    What is it with these turbans? They don’t have a
    turban rack outside, to take them off and hand them on a peg? It would save a few lives. If I wanted to protect my life, I would meet them in a sauna naked and under close scrutiny. And a cavity search prior
    to entering.

  • Villiger says:

    Peter’s point is so obviously correct. Why don’t you Afghans use metal detectors, for your own sake? Should be std procedure even for your brother, then that way no one gets offended.
    Btw, the turban in Afghanistan is not a religious symbol. It is purely cultural. As far as i know, correct me if i’m wrong, the Sikhs are the only major religion which require a turban for their men.
    If i have to take my shoes off at an airport, why can’t they enforce taking off the turban at critical security points.

  • F says:

    This is part of a far more disturbing trend than attacks on infrastructure. Showy attacks on hotels and headquarters buildings get good media coverage and perpetuate restlessness among the civilian population, but really just prove that security isn’t watertight. Deliberately targeting key leaders prevents the institutionalization of governance and deters competent people from taking up positions of leadership. If losing an insurgency is less about being outfought and more about being outgoverned, this is a way of keeping the government from being able to govern. The Taliban intention is to fill a vacuum with its own shadow government. If they keep this up they’ll succeed.

  • Alan Hawk says:

    Between this incident ant the assassination of Karazi’s brother, the U.S. needs to consider the ‘peace’ process dead. We are NOT leaving in 2014 unless we want to return on some future date to clean out yet another Taliban nest of vipers.

  • Neondice says:

    We cannot defeat the insurgency until the safe havens in Pakistan, where all the top leaders reside as well, are dealt with in a significant way. The Taliban do not want peace nor will they until we can annihilate their leaders and safe havens.

  • Soccer says:

    The Taliban deny ever killing Rabbani at THIS point in time. They say they are doing an investigation into the matter and that Zabiullah Mujahid was falsely quoted by Reuters:

  • Mr T says:

    “It’s hard for us westerners to wrap our head around it, no pun intended.”
    No, we get it. Its called stupidity.

  • NUS says:

    @ plainslow:

  • Paul T says:

    The other side is not giving up or making any deals. let’s face it.

  • joe says:

    Heap everything on Pakistan, but this will not bring victory for US forces in Afghanistan.

  • mike merlo says:

    this ‘smells’ like a Hekmatyar ISI operation


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